Excerpt from "I Want to Say" by Natalie Goldberg
Each day when I drive my my sons to basketball practice, I pass the house where I grew up. Each of us has a house that we still think about and which we remember as truly home. For me, it is the house with the round window.
That old house absorbed the shouts and murmurs of my adolescence, saw the birth of my little sister,and was the scene of my wedding;vows said before the fireplace. The house sheltered me and seemed to mourn in tandem, while I grieved my brother within its walls. Two of my sons learned to walk on the old hardwood floors. I knew its every creak , identified while I cautiously tried to sneak in and out long past my curfew. I knew its harmless, but clearly audible ghosts, who inspired wonder and a little fear.
All of our family traditions evolved inside those walls and I think of those experiences as I watch the leaves change and feel the evocative emotions the change of seasons elicits. Many Halloweens were spent there. Each October. My mother would pain the huge round window with orange tempera. A giant, smiling jack-o-lantern would form under her brushes and be perfectly back lit by the warmth of our home. Families began their own tradition of driving by each year to see the giant pumpkin that, in the darkness, appeared to hover in midair.
This simple act of painting a window took time and effort, and I recall that the cleanup was often a nuisance, but it was well worth the trouble. People still remark to me that they remember that yearly pumpkin and that it holds a fond place in their childhood memories.
I remember that there were other traditions we held each Halloween...we lit a fire in the fireplace, often for the first time that year, my mom made special treats that we only had at Halloween (that kept them special)- a caramel, walnut and cream cheese apple dip that was fantastic, and an enormous bowl of buttered popcorn to share with the many children who trick or treated our house. My mother took care and artfully arranged simple but delicious snacks to balance the overindulgence of sweets she knew we would take part in later. It wasn't really about the costumes- although ours were always creative.
I remember the year I was a white rabbit and my infant brother was a carrot. I have a fuzzy snapshot of the two of us- an 8 year old white bunny holding a vaguely annoyed looking baby carrot. We won first prize at the costume contest held on the square; I recall first prize was a silver dollar and our picture in the paper.
Halloween evening at our home often became an informal party with parents, teachers, children from the school and others dropping in and staying to eat, laugh, talk. The little dining room off the entry would be cozily crowded and the front room pressed into service. A tape of creepy music would add to the atmosphere.
What I remember most fondly was not the frantic accumulation of sugar and door to door traipsing down sidewalks whose cracks I could map from memory, but the quantity and quality of time that was afforded me. Time to enjoy a lighthearted evening with family and friends, time to gloat over and meticulously sort my loot, time to listen and remember. The evening seemed to last and last. There were no cell phone interruptions, television was ordered off and remained so all evening. When we were together, we were truly connecting. I had time to think and reflect and enjoy each moment. The only interruptions were the periodic, gentle tappings on the front door.
I hope my boys will remember with similar fondness the Halloweens we have spent together, as a family. Happy Halloween!
Jar of good quality caramel sauce
Toasted Walnuts or Pecans
Spread softened cream cheese on serving plate, pour caramel sauce over cream cheese, top with toasted nuts, serve with apples.